Teach Abroad - Thailand, Teach Abroad Programs

Communal Cups, Cats and Instant Coffee While Teaching in Thailand

by Paul Hoffman, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Thailand

Creative Commons photo courtesy of puuikibeach

I want to veer off the normal path of talking about the classroom and teaching experiences that happen while teaching in Thailand.  My main topic for this week has got to be Teacher Appreciation Day that was held last Thursday at our school.  It was an amazing event!  I was so happy and so proud to be able to experience it and be a small part of it!

Imagine if you can a large room filled with about 500 7th grade students and about 350 12fth grade students. That’s over a thousand students, plus at least 60 teachers and staff members who sat up on the stage at one end of the room.  (That’s where I was.)  There were two different musical ensembles – one with traditional Thai instruments and one with classical orchestra instruments.  Each ensemble had about 16 students participating.  But when the Teacher Appreciation Day ceremony began, you could have heard a pin drop in the room.  It was unbelievable!

Both musical groups played a song to start out and then ALL the students spoke to the assembled teachers in unison. Of course they were speaking Thai, but my school coordinator (who was sitting beside me) translated for me. The students were basically declaring their respect to all the teachers present and letting the teachers know what kind of role they have in their lives. After that was done, a few select students brought gifts or flowers or arrangements of various things (like candy or dessert) up to the stage area and presented it to the group of teachers. The students “walked” across the stage on their knees while presenting these offerings!

This ceremony is very traditional in Thai culture and I was humbled to be a part of it. In my opinion, this sort of ceremony would probably never happen in America. That’s not to say that all Thai students are perfect angels and are well behaved in class – some are definitely not. So Thai students and U.S. students have that particular trait in common, but I can’t remember seeing this kind of public display of respect and honor for teachers ever happen in the U.S.

Now for some more observations / conclusions / tidbits and realizations about Thailand:

  •  Just like everywhere in the world, there are some parts of town that are better than other parts.…But even as I walk through the “slums” or the “ghetto” of Suphanburi, the Spirit Houses are beautiful and immaculate, even if the real house is falling down and leaking rain!  (Now that will give you some insight as to how Thai people feel about Buddhism – it’s very important here.)
  •  There are stores here that specialize in just one thing!  I have seen (more than once) a store that only sells industrial size cement mixers!  Or, a store that only sells large rocks!  Or, a store that only sells styrofoam restaurant “to go” containers!

    Creative Commons photo courtesy of Dennis Yang

  • A clothes dryer.  I’ll give a hundred dollars to someone who can find me clothes dryer in this country!  (I’m talking about the machine – not a rope stretched across your balcony.)
  • Spay and neuter are two words that are not found in the Thai language.
  • What is the deal with some Thai people wearing gloves, coats, and full face stocking caps all day?  It’s HOT here!  At first I would stare in disbelief when I saw someone wearing a ski mask as the heat index approaches 148 degrees, now I hardly notice….
  • At home, I would never touch instant coffee.  Nescafe?  Sanka?  Birdy?  No way!!  Here, it’s all I drink.  (If you’re not into paradigm shifts, you soon will be when living in Thailand!)
  • What is the deal with these communal water jugs?  Imagine a 3 gallon thermos made out of metal or plastic sitting on a table or chair with one metal cup attached to the thermos handle with a string. A person will walk up, grab the cup, dip it in the water and drink it.  Then, they set the cup down and leave.  Next person – comes up, picks up same cup, dips in, takes a drink, etc, etc……  Only in Thailand!

About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


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